When Tanzanian musician Bernard Michael Paul Mnyangánga first met Anerlisa Muigai, the eldest daughter of Keroche Breweries founder and owner Tabitha Muigai Karanja, he was smitten.
Ben Pol, as he is popularly known, said he knew he wanted to settle down with the entrepreneur, who is the founder and owner of Nero Water Company.
A friendship started in 2018 before it blossomed in April 2019 when the two were holidaying in Mombasa.
On that day, Ben Pol went down on one of his knees and popped the question, “Will you marry me?”. He then put a ring on her finger that was rumoured to be Sh1 million. She said “yes”.
“How much was the ring?” I asked Ben Pol when we met recently in Nairobi. “Does it matter now? It was an expensive piece from me to someone who meant the world to me at that particular time,” he said.
The love birds would privately wed a year later – in May 2020, in Dar es Salaam, with less than 10 guests in attendance, only for the Moyo mashine hitmaker to file for divorce after 11 months.
The 32-year old filed for divorce in April 2021 at a Dar es Salaam court without detailing any reason for the action.
“To say what exactly led to the crumbling of our marriage would be very difficult. At some point I felt the universe was communicating to me that something wasn’t right. There were so many red flags that initially I had ignored and issues kept piling up until I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to file for divorce,” he tells Saturday Nation.
Even though Ben Pol shares responsibilities of rocking the ship, he maintains he did all he could to salvage their marriage.
The singer, however, says he is not certain if Anerlisa wanted the marriage to work as he did and that might have piled more pressure on the union.
“I believe I played my part, I tried to save the union because I wanted it to work but the universe had other plans. I gave my all, but I am not sure if she did the same. ”
In November last year, however during a visit to Dar es Salaam, Anerlisa, who continues to avoid discussing the subject, blasted Ben Pol for disrespecting their marriage.
“You know something that most people don’t understand is that marriage is not like any other relationship. Marriage should be respected, you cannot be going all over talking about your marriage carelessly,” she said.
“The best thing to do is to respect marriage and stop talking about it. We went for Bible studies and we were taught not to talk about marriage and even what happens after that. If you have broken up, let it stay that way but talking about it was a bit too much,” Anerlisa told journalists at Julius Nyerere International Airport .
But Ben Pol sees nothing wrong in discussing the union as they are no longer together.
“I am an artist and I have to do interviews and in all the interviews, the question of our marriage always pops up. If you check in all the interviews there is not even one where I ever disclosed what really went down. I have never said what she did until to date. I felt it wasn’t working as I had envisioned and I walked away.”
The singer, who has now turned into environmental activism, feels once they got married, they both relaxed and got too comfortable forgetting to nourish their love as was the case when they dated, which was the best period of their relationship.
“I think we let our guard down once we got married. We got too comfortable because during the dating phase, everyone tries to secure their position and prove to their partner that they are the right match.”
When the two went public with their affair, which they had kept secret for months, Ben Pol became an interesting feed on social media.
A majority of social media followers and bloggers felt he was into the union because of Anerlisa’s financial muscles.
Many a time the couple documented their lavish escapades in exotic destinations all over the world.
Ben Pol doesn’t deny being bankrolled by the Nero CEO, but he maintains that he also played his part when he needed to.
“Its my belief that when in a relationship, couples should support each other. What is yours becomes hers and hers yours. She is a businesswoman and does lots of travelling as part of her schedule. She always asked me to accompany her and she would cater for that because she understood it wasn’t in my budget. Besides, I also took her on trips but it's only that people will never give credit to that because of her background,” Ben Pol recounts.
For the singer, the only regret he has is posting pictures on social media.
“I am a human being, I’m an artiste and like anybody else when you go to beautiful places, it's only natural to take photos and share but you can never control how the masses will interpret. It is such a shame”
The songwriter also denied reports that Anerlisa’s family wasn’t fond of him and that was one of the reasons for them not showing up at their wedding.
Ben Pol is full of praise of his ex-in-laws terming them as very loving and supportive parents.
After the breakup, it took months for Ben Pol to recover from emotional and mental derail.
“Those were tough days. I couldn’t sleep, I lost weight, I tried to go to the gym but it wasn't working. The only thing that did help is reading lots of books, attending therapy sessions and meeting people,” he beams.
The soft-spoken creative still has a desire to settle down someday but not in the near future.
Since parting ways with Anerlisa, Ben Pol has been heavily involved in environmental conservation activism and currently works with Hollywood actress Lupita Nyongó as WildAid ambassadors in Tanzania and Kenya respectively.
While most Wildlife conservation groups focus on scientific studies and anti-poaching efforts, WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife.
“I am passionate about environmental conservation and I started creating environmental content in 2010 but it was until 2015 that international organisations started approaching me for partnerships. I started with WildAid which Lupita, Bruce Melody, Rwanda, Jackie Chan and Davido are also part of as ambassadors,” he says.
“In 2017, I partnered with Worldwide Fund for Nature, then the UN came on board as well as Lead Foundation.”
Ben Pol's recent trip to Kenya was sponsored by Just Diggit, a global organisation on a mission to re-green Africa and cool down the planet.
“Just Diggit mission is to combat global warming and our current climate action project here in Kenya is a re-greening exercise we have been undertaking in degraded areas in Amboseli and Chyulu Hills (Makueni County). We have also been training communities there on grazing management and offering women empowerment. Women in these areas are supported to grow grass seed banks which they later sell to Just Diggit and the organisation distributes the seeds in degraded areas for re-greening,” Ben Pol explains.
Towards the course, Ben Pol has released an environmental campaign song Kijanisha, featuring Christina Shusho, Joh Makini and Frida Amani which he hopes will create more awareness.
But even with his hands full, Ben Pol can’t wait to have his divorce to Anerlisa finalised by the court.
“Divorce is quite a process, the matter is still going on in court and I hope it concludes soon,” he says.